Sunday, October 28, 2012
American Universities are a sea of Fascism
With lots of poisonous little jellyfish swimming in them
Our campuses have become havens of bad ideas when it comes to censorship. Research by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) reveals that 65% of the nation’s biggest and most prestigious universities have speech codes that either are flatly unconstitutional (at public colleges) or that violate free speech principles that they themselves espouse (at private colleges). This nationwide scheme of repression is the most systematic form of censorship that takes place on our nation’s campuses.
But then there are the individual cases — for instance, when a professor just takes a box cutter and cuts political speech he doesn’t like right off a wall.
This madness actually happened at Sam Houston State University in Texas last year, when Professor Joe E. Kirk decided that he didn’t like some of what was written on a “free speech wall” organized by student Morgan Freeman (no relation that I know of) and constructed by four student political groups. The wall was built to teach students about their free speech rights — and it certainly did so, although not the way they had intended. FIRE’s newest video has the story.
What did Kirk do? He objected to the fact that someone had written (warning, bad language coming) “f*ck Obama” on the free speech wall. He asked the students to cover it up. Considering that they were running a free speech wall, they refused. Kirk left and returned with a box cutter, and proceeded to physically cut the F-word off of the paper covering the wall.
“Hey! I don’t like swearing either!” you say. “Good for him!” Not so fast. This was hardly the only instance of that four-letter word on the wall. Whatever you may think of swearing (and it is constitutionally protected, particularly in the political context) the word is in common use at college, and it was written multiple times on the wall, including next to the name of President Bush. Kirk did not take any exception to those instances of the F-word. Nope, only for President Obama.
The students did exactly what you are supposed to do when you’ve been the subject of vandalism — they called the police. The campus police arrived, talked to the students and Professor Kirk, and proceeded to take Kirk’s side and threaten the students with a misdemeanor if they did not cover up the F-word everywhere on the wall! Realizing that their free speech wall had just become a government-approved speech wall, the students instead decided to quit and dismantle the wall.